Along the same lines as the question, “How did people watch TV before DVR and Netflix?” or “How did people drive anywhere before Google Maps?” I sometimes ask myself, “How did people tumble through psychologically unhealthy cycles of jealousy before social media?”
Sure, in the pre-digital days you could become a stalker, hanging outside your lover’s apartment with binoculars, but that takes a pretty big buy-in — stalking is really more of a specialty vertical for super-users. But with Facebook and other social media sites, spying on everyone from lovers to crushes is never more than a few phone taps away. Jealousy is social media’s “killer app.”
So it’s with something far short of surprise to learn that, according to a new study from dating site WhatsYourPrice, the more a man’s significant other uses Instagram, the more insecure and jealous he becomes.
The site surveyed 611 adult couples about both jealousy levels and Instagram use, and found that the most jealous men were dating women who spent more than 1.25 hours a day on the photo-sharing site and posted ten times or more per week. The posts often included five hashtags or more (!!!) and were usually selfies.
That the most jealousy-inspiring photos were selfies adds an interesting wrinkle to the study. On one hand, that could indicate that men who date narcissistic women are more likely to be jealous, regardless of how often they use Instagram. Narcissism and insecurity are closely linked, so in a like-dates-like scenario, where two narcissists are paired together, it makes sense that men dating selfie-enthusiasts would be easily susceptible to bouts of jealousy.
WhatsYourPrice CEO Brandon Wade adds that the jealousy may also stem from other men subsequently “liking” these women’s selfies. He offers a sound piece of advice to any guy freaking out over his girlfriend’s Instagram activity: “Instead of allowing a social media platform to dictate security within a relationship, men should take the likes for what they are: an affirmation of their partners beauty.” Awwwww!
As I wrote in my review of the brilliant techno-dystopian television series “Black Mirror,” the more of our lives we filter through digital platforms, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, the more at risk we become of losing our sense of emotional well-being. Forget Facebook’s infamous mood experiments — social media platforms don’t need to purposely mess with our emotions to turn us into basketcases. We do it to ourselves every time we check an ex’s Instagram page, monitor a Facebook discussion between a significant other and one of that person’s old flames, or read through an argument on Gchat over and over again, looking for hidden meanings and clues that suggest infidelity.
In other words, Instagram doesn’t make people jealous. It just lowers the barriers of entry to embrace our most self-destructive of human impulses.